Hamilton: An American Musical is a sung- and rapped-through musical about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, with music, lyrics and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow. Notably incorporating hip-hop, rhythm and blues, pop music, soul music, traditional-style show tunes and color-conscious casting of non-white actors as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures, the musical achieved both critical acclaim and box office success.
|An American Musical|
Broadway promotional poster
by Ron Chernow
|Premiere||January 20, 2015: The Public Theater, New York City|
2017 First U.S. Tour
2017 West End
The musical made its Off-Broadway debut at The Public Theater in February 2015, where its engagement was sold out. The show transferred to Broadway in August 2015 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. On Broadway, it received enthusiastic critical reception and unprecedented advance box office sales. In 2016, Hamilton received a record-setting 16 Tony nominations, winning 11, including Best Musical, and was also the recipient of the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The prior off-Broadway production of Hamilton won the 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical as well as seven other Drama Desk Awards out of 14 total nominated categories.
The Chicago production of Hamilton began preview performances at the CIBC Theatre in September 2016 and officially opened the following month. The first U.S. national tour of the show began performances in March 2017. A production of Hamilton opened in the West End in December 2017 at the Victoria Palace Theatre. A second U.S. tour is also set to begin performances in early 2018.
On February 14, 2017, Miranda confirmed that a film adaptation based on the musical is in the works.
The musical begins with the company summarizing Alexander Hamilton's early life as an orphan in the Caribbean ("Alexander Hamilton"). Hamilton was born out of wedlock in the West Indies—his father abandoned him in the boy's early youth and his mother died when Hamilton was 12. By 19, Hamilton has made his way to the American colonies, a dedicated supporter of American independence.
In the summer of 1776 in New York City, Hamilton seeks out Aaron Burr. Burr advises the overenthusiastic Hamilton to "talk less; smile more". Hamilton is unable to understand why Burr would rather exercise caution than fight for his beliefs ("Aaron Burr, Sir"). Hamilton bonds with three fellow revolutionaries: abolitionist John Laurens, the flamboyant Frenchman Marquis de Lafayette, and the tailor's apprentice Hercules Mulligan. Hamilton dazzles them with his rhetorical skills ("My Shot") and they dream of laying down their lives for their cause ("The Story of Tonight"). Meanwhile, the wealthy Schuyler sisters—Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy—wander the streets of New York, excited by the spirit of revolution in the air ("The Schuyler Sisters").
Samuel Seabury, a vocal Loyalist, preaches against the American Revolution, and Hamilton refutes and ridicules his statements ("Farmer Refuted"). A message arrives from King George III, reminding the colonists that he is able and willing to fight for their submission ("You'll Be Back").
The revolution is underway, and Hamilton, Burr, and their friends join the Continental Army. As the army retreats from New York City, General George Washington realizes he needs help to win the war. Though Hamilton desires a command and to fight on the front lines, he recognizes the opportunity Washington offers him, and accepts a position as his aide-de-camp ("Right Hand Man").
In the winter of 1780, the men attend a ball given by Philip Schuyler, and Hamilton sets his sights on the man's daughters ("A Winter's Ball"). Eliza falls instantly in love, and after being introduced by Angelica, Eliza and Hamilton soon wed ("Helpless"). Angelica is also smitten with Hamilton, but swallows her feelings for the sake of her sister's happiness ("Satisfied"). Hamilton, Laurens, Lafayette and Mulligan drunkenly celebrate the marriage when Burr arrives to offer congratulations. After Laurens teases him, Burr admits that he is having an affair with Theodosia Bartow Prevost, the wife of a British officer ("The Story of Tonight (Reprise)"). Hamilton urges Burr to make the relationship public. Burr, however, prefers to wait and see what life has in store for him rather than take any drastic measures ("Wait For It").
As the revolution continues, Hamilton repeatedly petitions Washington to give him command, but Washington refuses, instead promoting Charles Lee. This decision proves disastrous at the Battle of Monmouth, where Lee orders a retreat against Washington's orders, which prompts the commander to remove him from command in favor of Lafayette. Disgruntled, Lee spreads slanderous and vindictive rumors about Washington ("Stay Alive"). Hamilton is offended, but Washington orders Hamilton to ignore the comments. Hamilton does not wish to do so, but cannot disobey a direct order; instead, Laurens duels Lee, with Hamilton as his second, and Burr as Lee's second. Laurens is satisfied after he injures Lee and Lee yields ("Ten Duel Commandments"). Washington is angered by the duel, and orders Hamilton to return home to his wife ("Meet Me Inside"). When Hamilton returns home, Eliza tells him she is pregnant. She reassures a hesitant Hamilton that he doesn't need fame or fortune to live a happy life by her side ("That Would Be Enough").
Lafayette takes a larger leadership role in the revolution, persuading France to join the American cause, and the balance shifts in favor of the Continental Army. Washington and Lafayette realize they can win the war by cutting off the British navy at Yorktown, but they will need Hamilton to do so, and the general offers him his long-desired command ("Guns and Ships"). On the eve of battle, Washington recalls his disastrous first command, and advises Hamilton that no man can control how he is remembered ("History Has Its Eyes on You"). After several days of fighting, the Continental Army is victorious. The British surrender in the last major battle of the war ("Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)"). His forces defeated, King George asks the rebels how they expect to successfully govern on their own ("What Comes Next?").
Soon after the victory at Yorktown, Hamilton's son Philip is born, while Burr has a daughter, Theodosia ("Dear Theodosia"). Hamilton receives word that Laurens has been killed in a seemingly pointless battle (the Battle of the Combahee River) and throws himself into his work. ("Tomorrow There'll Be More of Us"). Hamilton and Burr both return to New York to finish their studies and pursue careers as lawyers. Burr is in awe of Hamilton's unyielding work ethic and becomes increasingly irritated by his success. Hamilton is chosen as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787. Hamilton enlists James Madison and John Jay to write The Federalist Papers after Burr refuses. Angelica announces that she has found a husband and will be moving to London. The newly elected President Washington enlists Hamilton for the job of Treasury Secretary, despite Eliza's protests ("Non-Stop").
In 1789, Thomas Jefferson returns to the U.S. from France, where he spent most of the Articles of Confederation era as an ambassador. Immediately upon returning, he briefly addresses Sally Hemings, asking her to open a letter from Washington, requesting that he become the first Secretary of State under the new Constitution. Upon Jefferson's arrival in New York, James Madison asks for Jefferson's help to stop Hamilton's financial plan, which Madison believes gives the government too much control ("What'd I Miss?"). Jefferson and Hamilton debate the merits of Hamilton's financial plan during a Cabinet meeting. Washington pulls Hamilton aside, and tells him to figure out a compromise to win over Congress ("Cabinet Battle #1").
While Hamilton is working at home, Eliza reminds him that Philip, their son, is turning nine years old. Philip presents Hamilton with a short rap he composed, amazing his father. Angelica advises Hamilton to convince Jefferson of his plan so Congress will accept it. She also mentions a letter recently received from Hamilton, in which he referred to her as his "dearest", and wondering if it was intentional. Later, Eliza and Angelica try to persuade Hamilton to accompany them on vacation for the summer, but Hamilton refuses, saying that he has to work on his plan for Congress, staying in New York while the family goes upstate ("Take a Break").
While alone, Hamilton is visited by Maria Reynolds, who claims she has been deserted by her husband. When Hamilton offers to help her, they begin an affair. Maria's husband James Reynolds blackmails Hamilton, who is furious with Maria but pays Reynolds and continues the affair ("Say No To This").
Hamilton discusses his plan with Jefferson and Madison over a private dinner, which results in the Compromise of 1790, giving support to Hamilton's financial plan in exchange for moving the United States capital from New York to Washington, D.C., a site much closer to Jefferson's home in Virginia. Burr is envious of Hamilton's sway in the government and wishes he had similar power ("The Room Where It Happens"). Burr switches political parties and defeats Eliza's father, Philip Schuyler, in a race for Schuyler's seat in the Senate. This drives a wedge between Burr and Hamilton—the latter believes that Burr holds no loyalties and will stop at nothing to gain influence ("Schuyler Defeated").
In another Cabinet meeting, Jefferson and Hamilton argue over whether the United States should assist France in its conflict with Britain. Washington ultimately agrees with Hamilton's argument for remaining neutral ("Cabinet Battle #2"). After the meeting, Burr, Jefferson, and Madison share their envy of Washington's perennial support of Hamilton's policies. They begin to seek a way to damage Hamilton's public image ("Washington on Your Side").
Washington tells Hamilton that Jefferson has resigned from his position in order to run for president, and that Washington himself is stepping down. Hamilton is shocked, but Washington convinces him that it is the right thing to do, and they write a farewell address ("One Last Time"). In England, King George III receives word that Washington is stepping down and will be replaced with John Adams. The king exits merrily, ready to enjoy the United States' suffering through the political turmoil caused by transitions in leadership, and Adams' inexperience ("I Know Him").
Hamilton is fired by Adams and publishes an inflammatory critique of the new president as a response ("The Adams Administration"). Jefferson, Madison and Burr believe they have found proof that Hamilton embezzled government money, effectively committing treason. When confronted, Hamilton admits to his affair with Maria Reynolds and his furtive payments to James Reynolds ("We Know"). Though the men swear to keep his secret, Burr reminds Hamilton that rumors grow, and Hamilton worries that the truth will get out. He reflects on how writing openly and honestly has saved him in the past ("Hurricane"), and publishes a public admission about the affair, hoping to snuff out rumors of embezzlement and save his political legacy. His personal reputation, however, is ruined following the publication of his Observations ("The Reynolds Pamphlet"). Heartbroken by his infidelity, Eliza tearfully burns the letters Hamilton has written her over the years, destroying Hamilton's chance at being redeemed by "future historians" and keeping the world from knowing how she reacted by "erasing herself from the narrative" ("Burn").
Years pass, and Philip, now grown, challenges George Eacker to a duel for insulting his father. Following Alexander's advice, Philip aims for the sky at the beginning of the duel, hoping the gesture would cause Eacker to stand down, but at the count of seven, Eacker shoots him ("Blow Us All Away"). Philip is taken to a doctor, who is unable to save him. Hamilton and Eliza separately arrive not long before Philip dies ("Stay Alive (Reprise)"). In the aftermath of Philip's death, the family moves uptown. Hamilton asks for Eliza's forgiveness for his mistakes, which he eventually receives ("It's Quiet Uptown").
The presidential election of 1800 results in President John Adams' defeat, with Jefferson and Burr tied to win. Hamilton is upset that Burr holds no apparent principles, and so endorses Jefferson, who wins the presidency ("The Election of 1800"). Burr, angered, challenges Hamilton to a duel via an exchange of letters ("Your Obedient Servant"). Before sunrise on the morning of the duel, Eliza, unaware of the duel, asks Hamilton to come back to bed. Hamilton tells her he has an appointment, and tells her that he loves her ("Best of Wives and Best of Women").
Burr and Hamilton travel to Weehawken, New Jersey for the duel. Hamilton aims his pistol at the sky and is struck in the chest by Burr's bullet. Hamilton soliloquizes on death, his relationships, and his legacy. He dies soon after, with his wife and Angelica at his side. Burr laments that even though he survived, he is cursed to be the villain in history, remembered as the man who killed Alexander Hamilton ("The World Was Wide Enough").
The company congregates to close the story. Washington enters and reminds the audience that they have no control over how they will be remembered. Jefferson and Madison collectively admit the genius of their rival's financial plans. Eliza explains her role in preserving her husband's legacy over the next 50 years and frets that she has still not done enough. Addressing Hamilton directly, she tells him that she has established a private orphanage in his honor and she "can't wait to see [him] again" ("Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story").
Roles and principal casts
Original production casts
|Character||Vassar Workshop||Off-Broadway||Broadway||Chicago||First U.S. Tour||West End||Second U.S. Tour||Puerto Rico|
|Alexander Hamilton||Lin-Manuel Miranda||Miguel Cervantes||Michael Luwoye||Jamael Westman||Joseph Morales||Lin-Manuel Miranda|
|Eliza Hamilton||Ana Nogueira||Phillipa Soo||Ari Afsar||Solea Pfeiffer||Rachelle Ann Go||Shoba Narayan||TBA|
|Aaron Burr||Utkarsh Ambudkar||Leslie Odom Jr.||Joshua Henry||Giles Terera||Nik Walker||TBA|
|Angelica Schuyler||Anika Noni Rose||Renée Elise Goldsberry||Karen Olivo||Emmy Raver-Lampman||Rachel John||Ta'Rea Campbell||TBA|
|Marquis de Lafayette / Thomas Jefferson||Daveed Diggs||Chris De'Sean Lee||Jordan Donica||Jason Pennycooke||Kyle Scatliffe||TBA|
|George Washington||Christopher Jackson||Jonathan Kirkland||Isaiah Johnson||Obioma Ugoala||Marcus Choi||TBA|
|King George III||Joshua Henry||Brian d'Arcy James||Jonathan Groff||Alexander Gemignani||Rory O'Malley||Michael Jibson||Jon Patrick Walker||TBA|
|John Laurens / Philip Hamilton||Javier Muñoz||Anthony Ramos||José Ramos||Rubén J. Carbajal||Cleve September||Elijah Malcomb||TBA|
|Peggy Schuyler / Maria Reynolds||Presilah Nunez||Jasmine Cephas Jones||Samantha Marie Ware||Amber Iman||Christine Allado||Danielle Sostre||TBA|
|Hercules Mulligan / James Madison||Joshua Henry||Okieriete Onaodowan||Wallace Smith||Mathenee Treco||Tarinn Callender||Fergie L. Philippe||TBA|
|Alexander Hamilton (alternate)||N/A||Javier Muñoz||Joseph Morales||Ryan Alvarado||Ash Hunter||TBA||TBA|
Broadway cast replacements
- Alexander Hamilton: Javier Muñoz
- Aaron Burr: Brandon Victor Dixon; Daniel Breaker
- Angelica Schuyler: Mandy Gonzalez
- Marquis de Lafayette / Thomas Jefferson: Seth Stewart; James Monroe Iglehart
- John Laurens / Philip Hamilton: Jordan Fisher
- King George III: Andrew Rannells; Rory O'Malley; Taran Killam; Brian d'Arcy James; Euan Morton
Other notable production cast replacements
† "Tomorrow There'll Be More of Us", a second reprise to "The Story of Tonight", does not appear on the original Broadway cast recording. Miranda explained that it was "more of a scene than a song, the only scene in the [sung-through] show", and he wanted to reserve the impact of "at least one revelation" that could be experienced more fully onstage.
‡ Previously titled "One Last Ride" in the Off-Broadway production.
Original Broadway cast album (2015)
The original Broadway cast recording for Hamilton was made available to listeners by NPR on September 21, 2015. It was released by Atlantic Records digitally on September 25, 2015, and physical copies were released on October 16, 2015. The cast album has also been released on vinyl. The album debuted at number 12 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, the highest entrance for a cast recording since 1963. It went on to reach number 3 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Billboard Rap albums chart. The original cast recording has won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
The Hamilton Mixtape (2016)
Lin Manuel-Miranda announced a new series of 13 Hamilton-related recordings called "Hamildrop", releasing once a month from December 2017 to December 2018. The first release was "Ben Franklin's Song" by The Decemberists on December 15, 2017, containing lyrics Miranda wrote during development of Hamilton for an unused song that was never set to music. Miranda had long imagined Benjamin Franklin singing in a "Decemberist-y way", and ultimately sent the lyrics to Colin Meloy, who set them to music.
|Lin-Manuel Miranda Talks 'Hamilton': Once A 'Ridiculous' Pitch, Now A Revolution, interview with Scott Simon, NPR, April 9, 2016|
While on vacation from performing in his hit Broadway show In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda read a copy of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, a biography of Alexander Hamilton. After finishing the first few chapters, Miranda began to envision the life of Hamilton as a musical, and researched whether a stage musical of Hamilton's life had been created. All he found was that a play of Hamilton's story had been done on Broadway in 1917, starring George Arliss as Alexander Hamilton. (Arliss reprised the role in a 1931 feature film adaptation, Alexander Hamilton, but to date there is no record of Miranda having seen it.)
Miranda therefore began a project entitled The Hamilton Mixtape. On May 12, 2009, Miranda was invited to perform music from In the Heights at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word. Instead, he performed the first song from The Hamilton Mixtape, a rough version of what would later become "Alexander Hamilton", Hamilton's opening number. He spent a year after that working on "My Shot", another early number from the show.
Miranda performed in a workshop production of the show, then titled The Hamilton Mixtape, at the Vassar Reading Festival on July 27, 2013. The workshop production was directed by Thomas Kail and musically directed by Alex Lacamoire. The workshop consisted of the entirety of the first act of the show and three songs from the second act. The workshop was accompanied by Lacamoire on the piano.
Of the original workshop cast, only three principal cast members played in the Off-Broadway production: Miranda, Daveed Diggs, and Christopher Jackson. Most of the original Off-Broadway cast moved to Broadway, except Brian d'Arcy James, who was replaced by Jonathan Groff as King George III.
|Interview with Ron Chernow (conducted by Harold Holzer) on the adaptation of his book into the play, February 25, 2016, C-SPAN|
Directed by Thomas Kail and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, the musical received its world premiere Off-Broadway at The Public Theater, under the supervision of the Public's Artistic Director Oskar Eustis, with previews starting on January 20, 2015 and officially opening on February 17. The production was extended twice, first to April 5 and then to May 3. Chernow served as historical consultant to the production. The show opened to universal acclaim according to review aggregator Did He Like It.
Hamilton premiered on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (also home to Miranda's 2008 Broadway debut In the Heights) on July 13, 2015 in previews, and opened on August 6, 2015. The production is produced by Jeffrey Seller and features scenic design by David Korins, costumes by Paul Tazewell, lighting by Howell Binkley and sound by Nevin Steinberg, who all reprised their roles from the off-Broadway production.
Hamilton opened at the CIBC Theatre in Chicago on October 19, 2016, following previews from September 27, 2016. It is currently booking through September 2, 2018. Near the beginning of its run, lead producer Jeffrey Seller said the show may be in residence for two years or more. On its opening, attended by author Miranda, the Chicago production received strongly positive reviews. Miranda praised the Chicago casts' performance during a later television interview.
U.S. touring productions (2017)
Plans for a national tour of Hamilton emerged near the end of January 2016. The tour was initially announced with over 20 stops, scheduled from 2017 through at least 2020. Tickets to the tour's run in San Francisco—its debut city—sold out within 24 hours of release; the number of people who entered the online waiting room to purchase tickets surpassed 110,000. The first national touring production began preview performances at San Francisco's SHN Orpheum Theatre on March 10, 2017 and officially opened on March 23. The production ran in San Francisco until August 5, when it transferred to Los Angeles' Hollywood Pantages Theatre for a run from August 11 to December 30, 2017.
Just days after the first U.S. tour began performances in San Francisco, news emerged that a second U.S. tour of Hamilton would begin in Seattle for a six-week limited engagement before touring North America concurrently with the first tour. To distinguish the first and second touring productions, the production team has labeled them, respectively, the "Angelica tour" and the "Philip tour".
The Angelica tour alone requires 14 truckloads of cargo and a core group of over 60 traveling cast, crew, and musicians. The production team insisted that each tour must be able to duplicate the original Broadway show's choreography, which literally revolves around two concentric turntables on the stage. This led to the construction of four portable sets, two for each tour, so that one set can be assembled well in advance at the next stop while the tour is still playing at the last stop.
West End (2017)
Cameron Mackintosh produced a London production which re-opened the Victoria Palace Theatre on December 21, 2017, following previews from December 6. Initial principal casting was announced on January 26, 2017. The London production received strongly positive reviews.
Puerto Rico (2019)
It was announced on November 8, 2017 that Hamilton would play the University of Puerto Rico's Teatro UPR in San Juan, beginning in January 2019, with Lin-Manuel Miranda reprising his performance as Alexander Hamilton. The Teatro UPR stage had suffered damage following Hurricane Maria in September and October 2017, and is set to undergo restorations and repairs prior to Hamilton's 2019 bow.
Box office and business
Opening and box office records
Hamilton's off-Broadway engagement at The Public Theater was sold out, and when the musical opened on Broadway, it had a multimillion-dollar advance in ticket sales, reportedly taking in $30 million before its official opening.
By September 2015, the show was sold out for most of its Broadway engagement. It was the second-highest-grossing show on Broadway for the Labor Day week ending September 6, 2015 (behind only The Lion King).
Hamilton set a Broadway box office record for the most money grossed in a single week in New York City in late November 2016, when it grossed $3.3 million for an eight performance week, becoming the first show to break $3 million in eight performances.
Ticket lottery and Ham4Ham
Hamilton, like other Broadway musicals, offers a ticket lottery before every show. Initially, twenty-one front row seats (and occasional standing room tickets) were offered in each lottery. Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda began preparing and hosting outdoor mini-performances shortly before each daily drawing, allowing lottery participants to experience a part of the show even when they did not win tickets. These were dubbed the "Ham4Ham" shows, because lottery winners were given the opportunity to purchase two tickets at the reduced price of one Hamilton ($10 bill) each.
The online theatrical journal HowlRound characterized Ham4Ham as an expression of Miranda's cultural background:
Ham4Ham follows a long tradition of Latina/o (or the ancestors of present-day Latina/os) theatremaking that dates back to when the events in Hamilton were happening.... The philosophy behind this is simple. If the people won't come to the theatre, then take the theatre to the people. While El Teatro Campesino's 'taking it to the streets' originated from a place of social protest, Ham4Ham does so to create accessibility, tap into social media, and ultimately generate a free, self-functioning marketing campaign. In this way, Ham4Ham falls into a lineage of accessibility as a Latina/o theatremaking aesthetic.
As a result of the Ham4Ham shows, Hamilton's lottery process drew unusually large crowds of people that created a significant congestion problem for West 46th Street. To avoid increasingly dangerous crowding and traffic conditions, an online ticket lottery began operating in early January 2016. On the first day of the online lottery, more than 50,000 people entered, resulting in the website crashing.
Following Miranda's departure from the show on July 9, 2016, Rory O'Malley, then playing King George III, took over as the host of Ham4Ham. The Ham4Ham show officially ended on August 31, 2016, after over a year of performances. The online lottery continued, with an official mobile app released in August 2017 that expanded the lottery by offering tickets for touring productions of Hamilton as well as the Broadway show.
Marilyn Stasio, in her review of the Off-Broadway production for Variety, wrote, "The music is exhilarating, but the lyrics are the big surprise. The sense as well as the sound of the sung dialogue has been purposely suited to each character. George Washington, a stately figure in Jackson's dignified performance, sings in polished prose... But in the end, Miranda's impassioned narrative of one man's story becomes the collective narrative of a nation, a nation built by immigrants who occasionally need to be reminded where they came from."
In his review of the Off-Broadway production, Jesse Green in New York wrote, "The conflict between independence and interdependence is not just the show's subject but also its method: It brings the complexity of forming a union from disparate constituencies right to your ears.... Few are the theatergoers who will be familiar with all of Miranda's touchstones. I caught the verbal references to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Gilbert and Sullivan, Sondheim, West Side Story, and 1776, but other people had to point out to me the frequent hat-tips to hip-hop... Whether it's a watershed, a breakthrough, and a game changer, as some have been saying, is another matter. Miranda is too savvy (and loves his antecedents too much) to try to reinvent all the rules at once.... Those duels, by the way—there are three of them—are superbly handled, the highlights of a riveting if at times overbusy staging by the director Thomas Kail and the choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler." Although giving a positive review, Elisabeth Vincentelli, of The New York Post (which was founded by Hamilton himself), wrote that Hamilton and Burr's love/hate relationship "fails to drive the show—partly because Miranda lacks the charisma and intensity of the man he portrays", and that "too many of the numbers are exposition-heavy lessons, as if this were 'Schoolhouse Rap!' The show is burdened with eye-glazingly dull stretches, especially those involving George Washington."
Ben Brantley in reviewing the Broadway production in The New York Times, wrote, "I am loath to tell people to mortgage their houses and lease their children to acquire tickets to a hit Broadway show. But Hamilton, directed by Thomas Kail and starring Mr. Miranda, might just about be worth it.... Washington, Jefferson, Madison—they're all here, making war and writing constitutions and debating points of economic structure. So are Aaron Burr and the Marquis de Lafayette. They wear the clothes (by Paul Tazewell) you might expect them to wear in a traditional costume drama, and the big stage they inhabit has been done up (by David Korins) to suggest a period-appropriate tavern, where incendiary youth might gather to drink, brawl and plot revolution."
David Cote in his review of the Broadway production for Time Out New York wrote, "I love Hamilton. I love it like I love New York, or Broadway when it gets it right. And this is so right... A sublime conjunction of radio-ready hip-hop (as well as R&B, Britpop and trad showstoppers), under-dramatized American history and Miranda's uniquely personal focus as a first-generation Puerto Rican and inexhaustible wordsmith, Hamilton hits multilevel culture buttons, hard... The work's human drama and novelistic density remain astonishing." He chose Hamilton as a Critics' Pick, and gave the production five out of five stars.
A review in The Economist notes that the production enjoys "near-universal critical acclaim". Barack Obama joked that admiration for the musical is "the only thing Dick Cheney and I agree on".
In an issue of Journal of the Early Republic, Andrew Schocket wrote that while Hamilton makes bold choices to stray away from what he calls the "American Revolution Rebooted" genre, it remains "forged in the mold of this genre, and despite its casting and hip-hop delivery, is more representative of it than we might think." In the same issue, Marvin McAllister noted that the production's heavy hip-hop influence works so well because "Miranda elevates the form through this marriage with musical theater storytelling, and in the process, ennobles the culture and the creators."
Honors and awards
Original Off-Broadway production
|2015||Lucille Lortel Awards||Outstanding Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Director||Thomas Kail||Won|
|Outstanding Choreographer||Andy Blankenbuehler||Won|
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical||Lin-Manuel Miranda||Won|
|Leslie Odom, Jr.||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical||Phillipa Soo||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Daveed Diggs||Won|
|Brian d'Arcy James||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Renée Elise Goldsberry||Won|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Paul Tazewell||Won|
|Outstanding Lighting Design||Howell Binkley||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Design||Nevin Steinberg||Won|
|Outer Critics Circle Awards||Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||Lin-Manuel Miranda||Won|
|Outstanding New Score||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Thomas Kail||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreographer||Andy Blankenbuehler||Nominated|
|Drama League Awards||Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance||Daveed Diggs||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Lin-Manuel Miranda||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Leslie Odom, Jr.||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Renée Elise Goldsberry||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Thomas Kail||Won|
|Outstanding Music||Lin-Manuel Miranda||Won|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Orchestrations||Alex Lacamoire||Nominated|
|Outstanding Set Design||David Korins||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Paul Tazewell||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lighting Design||Howell Binkley||Nominated|
|Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical||Nevin Steinberg||Won|
|Special Award ‡||Andy Blankenbuehler||Won|
|New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards||Best Musical||Won|
|Off Broadway Alliance Awards||Best New Musical||Won|
|Theatre World Awards||Outstanding Debut Performance||Daveed Diggs||Won|
|Clarence Derwent Awards||Most Promising Female Performer||Phillipa Soo||Won|
|Obie Awards||Best New American Theatre Work||Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler, Alex Lacamoire||Won|
|Edgerton Foundation New American Play Awards||Won|
‡ Blankenbuehler received a Special Drama Desk Award for "his inspired and heart-stopping choreography in Hamilton, which is indispensible [sic] to the musical's storytelling. His body of work is versatile, yet a dynamic and fluid style is consistently evident. When it's time to 'take his shot,' Blankenbuehler hits the bull's-eye."
Original Broadway production
|Presentation to Lin-Manuel Miranda of the Special Achievement Award from the board of the George Washington Book Prize, December 14, 2015, C-SPAN|
|Billboard||25 Best Albums of 2015||2|
|Rolling Stone||50 Best Albums of 2015||8|
According to an article in The New Yorker, the show is "an achievement of historical and cultural reimagining". The costumes and set reflect the period, with "velvet frock coats and knee britches. The set ...is a wooden scaffold against exposed brick; the warm lighting suggests candlelight". The musical is mostly sung and rapped all the way through, with little dialogue isolated outside of the musical score.
Miranda said that the portrayal of Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other white historical figures by black and Hispanic actors should not require any substantial suspension of disbelief by audience members. "Our cast looks like America looks now, and that's certainly intentional", he said. "It's a way of pulling you into the story and allowing you to leave whatever cultural baggage you have about the founding fathers at the door." He noted "We're telling the story of old, dead white men but we're using actors of color, and that makes the story more immediate and more accessible to a contemporary audience."
The pro-immigration message of Hamilton is at the forefront, as the show revolves around the life of one of the Founding Fathers of America, Alexander Hamilton, and how he made his mark in American politics as an immigrant. Instead of being characterized as a white person, Alexander Hamilton's immigrant status would be referenced throughout the whole show, alongside with the virtue and prowess of Hamilton ("by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter", described in the show's opening), in order to foster a positive image of immigrants. Alongside this, the casting of Black, Latino, and Asian American leads allowed audiences to literally view America as a nation of immigrants, with the intention of showing how irrelevant the Founding Fathers' whiteness is to their claim on the country. "Hamilton is a story about America, and the most beautiful thing about it is... it's told by such a diverse cast with a such diverse styles of music," according to Renee Elise Goldberry, who played Angelica Schuyler. "We have the opportunity to reclaim a history that some of us don't necessarily think is our own." Miranda has stated that he is "totally open" to women playing the Founding Fathers. Casting for the British production is expected to feature predominantly black British artists.
Chronology and events
Although Hamilton was based on true events, Miranda did use some dramatic license in retelling the story. For example, while Angelica did have a strong relationship with Hamilton, it was exaggerated in the show. During "Satisfied", Angelica explains why Hamilton is not suitable for her despite wanting him. In particular, she states, "I'm a girl in a world in which my only job is to marry rich. My father has no sons so I'm the one who has to social climb for one." In actuality, Angelica had less pressure on her to do this. Philip Schuyler actually had fifteen children, including two sons who survived into adulthood (one of whom was New York State Assemblyman Philip Jeremiah Schuyler), and Angelica had eloped with John Barker Church three years before she met Hamilton at her sister's wedding, when she was already mother of two of her eight children with Church. Miranda stated that he chose to do this because it is stronger dramatically if Angelica is available but cannot marry him.
In addition, in Act I, Burr's role in Hamilton's life is overstated, and much of the early interactions between the two men in the show are fictionalized. For example, while Burr was present at the Battle on Monmouth, Burr did not serve as Charles Lee's second in his duel with John Laurens as seen in "Ten Duel Commandments"; Lee's second was Evan Edwards. Hamilton also never approached Burr to help write the Federalist Papers as portrayed in "Non-Stop".
During Act I, the character of Aaron Burr says that "...Martha Washington named her feral tomcat after him! [Hamilton]", to which Alexander Hamilton replies: "That's true!" In fact it is false. The idea of Hamilton as a serial adulterer has been one of the biggest mischaracterizations of the real Alexander Hamilton for centuries, with celebrated authors repeating the story over and over again, notwithstanding that the sexual connotation of tomcat as a womanizer did not appear in dictionaries until the first half of the 20th century. The "tomcat" story has been previously discredited by author Stephen Knott, and refuted by historian and author Michael E. Newton at the "Alexander Hamilton Discoveries and Findings" talk held by the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society at Liberty Hall (Kean University) as part of the 2016 CelebrateHAMILTON events.
In Act II, there are multiple inaccuracies throughout Hamilton's decline, probably due to time constraints and narrative arc. While it is true that John Adams and Hamilton did not particularly get along, John Adams did not fire Hamilton as told in the show. Hamilton tendered his resignation from his position as Secretary of the Treasury on December 1, 1794, two years before Adams became president. However, Hamilton remained close friends with Washington and highly influential in the political sphere. In addition, Jefferson, Madison and Burr did not approach Hamilton about his affair, it was actually James Monroe, Frederick Muhlenberg and Abraham Venable in December 1792. Monroe was a close friend of Jefferson's and shared the information of Hamilton's affair with him. In the Summer of 1797, journalist James Callender broke the story of Hamilton's infidelity. Hamilton blamed Monroe, and the altercation nearly ended in a duel. With nothing left to do, Hamilton then published The Reynolds Pamphlet. In "Blow Us All Away", George Eacker and Philip Hamilton engage in a duel, before the events of the 1800 presidential election. The duel actually occurred in 1801, with Philip Hamilton dying on November 24. In the song, Eacker fires on Philip at the count of seven, while what happened in real-life was quite the opposite; both men refused to fire for over a minute before Eacker shot Philip in the hips. Lastly, it was not the presidential election of 1800 that led to Burr and Hamilton's duel. Burr did become Jefferson's vice-president, but when Jefferson decided to not run with Burr for reelection in 1804, Burr opted to run for Governor of New York instead. Burr lost to Morgan Lewis in a landslide. Afterwards, a letter was published in the Albany Register from Charles D. Cooper to Philip Schuyler, claiming that Hamilton called Burr, "a dangerous man, and one who ought not be trusted with the reins of government", and that he knew of "a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton has expressed of Mr. Burr". This led to the letters between Burr and Hamilton as seen in the show in "Your Obedient Servant".
Critical analysis and scholarship
The show has been critiqued for a simplistic depiction of Hamilton and vilification of Jefferson. Joanne B. Freeman, a history professor at Yale, contrasted the show's Hamilton to the "real Hamilton [who] was a mass of contradictions: an immigrant who sometimes distrusted immigrants, a revolutionary who placed a supreme value on law and order, a man who distrusted the rumblings of the masses yet preached his politics to them more frequently and passionately than many of his more democracy-friendly fellows".
Australian historian Shane White found the framing of the show's story "troubling", stating that he and many historian colleagues "would like to imagine that Hamilton is a last convulsion of the founding father mythology". According to White, Miranda's depiction of the founding of the United States "infuses new life into an older view of American history" that centered on the Founding Fathers, instead of joining the many historians who were "attempting to get away from the Great Men story" by incorporating "ordinary people, African-Americans, Native Americans and women" into a "more inclusive and nuanced" historical narrative in which Hamilton has a "cameo rather than leading role".
Rutgers University professor Lyra Monteiro criticized the show's multi-ethnic casting as obscuring a complete lack of identifiable enslaved or free persons of color as characters in the show. Monteiro identified other commentators, such as Ishmael Reed, who criticized the show for making Hamilton and other historical personages appear more progressive on racial injustice than they really were. According to Reed, "[Hamilton's] reputation has been shored up as an abolitionist and someone who was opposed to slavery," which Reed stated was untrue.
In The Baffler, policy analyst Matt Stoller criticized the musical's portrayal of Hamilton as an idealist committed to democratic principles, in contrast to what he characterized as the historical record of Hamilton's reactionary, anti-democratic politics and legacy. For example, Stoller cited Hamilton as a leader involved in the Newburgh conspiracy (a military coup plot against the Continental Congress in 1783); his development of a national financial system which, in Stoller's view, empowered the plutocratic elite; and his use of military force, indefinite detention, and mass arrests against dissenters during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791. In 2007, history writer William Hogeland criticized Chernow's biography of Hamilton on similar grounds in the Boston Review.
Use in education
KQED News wrote of a "growing number of intrepid U.S. history teachers...who are harnessing the Hamilton phenomenon to inspire their students". The Cabinet rap battles provide a way to engage students with topics that have traditionally been considered uninteresting. An elective course for 11th and 12th graders on the musical Hamilton was held at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York. KQED News added that "Hamilton is especially galvanizing for the student who believes that stories about 18th century America are distant and irrelevant" as it shows the Founding Fathers were real humans with real feeling and real flaws, rather than "bloodless, two-dimensional cutouts who devoted their lives to abstract principles". A high school teacher from the Bronx noted his students were "singing these songs the way they might sing the latest release from Drake or Adele". One teacher focused on Hamilton's ability to write his way out of trouble and toward a higher plane of existence: "skilled writing is the clearest sign of scholarship—and the best way to rise up and alter your circumstance."
Hamilton's producers have made a pledge to allow 20,000 New York City public high school students from low-income families to get subsidized tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway by reducing their tickets to $70 for students, and the Rockefeller Foundation provided $1.5 million to further lower ticket prices to $10 per student. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History created a study guide to accompany the student-ticket program.
The website EducationWorld writes that Hamilton is "being praised for its revitalization of interest in civic education". Northwestern University announced plans to offer course work in 2017 inspired by Hamilton, in history, Latino studies, and interdisciplinary studies.
In 2016, Moraine Valley Community College started a Hamilton appreciation movement, Straight Outta Hamilton, hosting panels and events that talk about the musical itself and relate them to current events.
Legacy and impact
In 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced a redesign to the $10 bill, with plans to replace Hamilton with a then-undecided woman from American history. Because of Hamilton's surging popularity, almost exclusively due to the musical, United States Treasury Secretary Jack Lew reversed the plans to replace Hamilton's portrait, instead deciding to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
Hamilton: The Revolution
|Presentation by Jeremy McCarter on Hamilton: The Revolution, June 11, 2016, C-SPAN|
On April 12, 2016, Miranda and Jeremy McCarter's book, Hamilton: The Revolution, was released, detailing Hamilton's journey from an idea to a successful Broadway musical. It includes an inside look at not only Alexander Hamilton's revolution, but the cultural revolution that permeates the show. It also has footnotes from Miranda and stories from behind the scenes of the show.
After premiering on the New York Film Festival on October 1, 2016, PBS' Great Performances exhibited on October 21, 2016 the documentary Hamilton's America. Directed by Alex Horwitz, it "delves even deeper into the creation of the show, revealing Miranda's process of absorbing and then adapting Hamilton's epic story into groundbreaking musical theater. Further fleshing out the story is newly shot footage of the New York production with its original cast, trips to historic locations such as Mt. Vernon and Valley Forge with Miranda and other cast members, and a surprising range of interviews with prominent personalities, experts, politicians, and musicians." The film featured interviews with American historians and Hamilton authorities Ron Chernow and Joanne B. Freeman.
2016 Vice President–elect Pence controversy
Following a performance on November 18, 2016, with Vice President-elect Mike Pence in the audience, Brandon Victor Dixon addressed Pence from the stage with a statement jointly written by the cast, show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and producer Jeffrey Seller. Dixon began by quieting the audience, and stated:
Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical, we really do. We, sir,—we—are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations."
Pence listened to the expression of concern about President-elect Donald Trump's upcoming administration and later expressed that he was not offended. However, Trump demanded an apology for what he described, on Twitter, as the cast having "harassed" Pence. This led to an online campaign called "#BoycottHamilton", which became widely mocked as the show is already sold-out months in advance. Trump was criticized by The Washington Post, who noted the division between white and non-white America in the 2016 Presidential election and suggested Trump could have offered "assurances that he would be a president for all Americans—that he would respect everybody regardless of race or gender or creed"; instead, as Presidential historian Robert Dallek expressed, Trump's Twitter response was a "striking act of divisiveness by an incoming president struggling to heal the nation after a bitter election", with the Hamilton cast a proxy for those fearful of Trump's policies and rhetoric. Jeffrey Seller, the show's lead producer, said that while Trump has not seen Hamilton or inquired about tickets, he is "welcome to attend".
In April 2016, Jeb! The Musical, subtitled An American Disappointment appeared on the Internet with Jeb Bush in the place of Alexander Hamilton, with political figures like Donald Trump and Chris Christie holding supporting roles. A staged reading, given "just as much preparation as Jeb's campaign", was staged at Northwestern University in June of that year. The parody was crowdsourced, with contributions coming from a range of writers. A number of writers were drawn from Yale University, Boston University, McGill University and the University of Michigan. These writers met in a Facebook group named "Post Aesthetics".
In 2016, Gerard Alessandrini, the creator of Forbidden Broadway, wrote the revue Spamilton which premiered at the Triad Theater in New York and also played at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago. It parodies Hamilton and other Broadway shows and caricatures various Broadway stars.
On October 12, 2016, the American sitcom Modern Family released the episode "Weathering Heights". The episode features a scene where Manny applies for college. To do so he records a parody of "Alexander Hamilton" as part of his application, complete with rewritten lyrics to accompany to his own life. It is revealed that most of the other applications are also Hamilton parodies.
On October 13, 2017, the studio TeamFourStar released episode 8 of their "Hellsing Ultimate Abridged" series on YouTube, which is based upon the OVA series Hellsing Ultimate. In the end credits, they feature a parody of the song "Alexander Hamilton", in honor of a character in the show, Alexander Anderson, with completely rewritten lyrics designed to mirror Anderson's life in the OVA and parody series.
- 1776, a 1969 musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence
- Assassins, a 1990 musical about several plots to assassinate U.S. presidents
- Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a 2010 historical rock musical about America's seventh President, Andrew Jackson, and the founding of the Democratic Party
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Near-universal critical acclaim...
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